woman with help written on her hand: red flags signs the person you are dating is abusive

Whether you are already in a relationship or are starting a new one, it is important to be aware of the types of behaviours that are commonly observed in abusive partners. If the person you are in a relationship with shows some of these traits, it is important that you proceed with caution:

Red flags for abuse: common behaviour observed in abusive partners

  • They move too fast in a new relationship.
  • Jealousy. He or she wants you all to himself and doesn’t like you spending time with others – they may be trying to isolate you from your support network.
  • Hypersensitivity. They may be easily offended or quick to react when they feel threatened.
  • Blaming of others. People with abusive traits often see themselves as a victim.
  • Entitlement. They feel they are deserving of special treatment, from you and others.

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  • Controlling. They may want to control your movements and make decisions for you. They may even try to restrict your exercise of very ordinary adult rights or freedoms. This kind of behaviour is sometimes disguised as concern for your safety.

the word abuse written in newspapers: red flags signs the person you are dating might be abusive

  • Believes that he or she is superior to others – or at least acts superior.
  • Deception and lying. For example, they may sabotage your efforts to use birth control. They may even try to convince you that your memory or interpretation of events is faulty.
  • Doesn’t respect boundaries. This may refer to emotional or physical (including sexual) boundaries.
  • Cruel or disrespectful to other people or animals.
  • Has a history of abuse – abusers will usually deny this.
  • Uses force during arguments.
  • Manipulative. An abusive partner may convince you that you are to blame for the problems in your relationship, and may regularly accuse you of cheating on them.

Have you previously been an abusive relationship? 

Research shows that people who have been in abusive relationships in the past (even as children) are more likely to find themselves in one again. These people should exercise special care when entering new relationships.

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Why do victims of abuse stay silent and protect their abusers?

There are a number of reasons that victims may not voice that they are being abused.

Denial. Denial happens when we refuse the notion that our situation is unhealthy and hold on to the dream that we bought into, hoping that the difficult parts will change. So we hush the alarm bells, distract ourselves and divert our thoughts. Once friends and family know a person is being abused, they may also put pressure on the victim to leave.

Shame. One of the hallmarks of abusive relationships is that the victim is made to believe wholeheartedly that they are the cause of the problem, that they deserve the abuse, and that if they just changed themselves it would go away.

Love. Most abused people love (or once loved) their abuser. Staying silent is another way of protecting someone you love from potential legal action or reputational harm.

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The Warrior Project was established in 2019 as an online portal with information and resources available to victims of domestic abuse and gender based violence, including counselling services, shelters and legal assistance.